Greek Recipes

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Byzantine cuisine – Cereals

Egypt had always been the chief grain supplier to the great empires of thr Eastern Mediterranean, both the Byzantine and Roman. When Egypt fell into the hands of the Arabs at the turn of the 7th century BC, the plains of Thrace took its place as the chief source of grain for the region.

In general, the cereal-based dietary habits of the Byzantines was about the same as that of ancient Greeks. Katharos artos (“clean” or “white bread”) was eaten by the affluent while the poor had ryparos (dirty) brown bread – referring to the fact that not all the bran (with its nutritional elements, as we know it) had been removed. The cheapest bread was piteratos (full of bran) and denoted “a state of abject poverty”, as pointed out by Byzantine scholar, F.Koukoules.

As always, the poor had very little to eat, and although they lived at subsistence level, what they did eat was more nutritious. The healthy nature of their diet, however, did not keep them from complaining that they could not relish the same foods as the wealthy. A case in point is a comment made by some monks on the diet of the abbots: “They have semolina, while we content ourselves with bran”.

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